How Regular Workouts Change Your Brain
It is a well known fact that regular workouts change the way we look. Our bodies become tighter, more muscular, we lose fat and build lean muscle, which usually makes us look thinner and like ourselves more because of it. However, you have probably noticed that when you exercise, it is not just your body that benefits from it, but your mental state is affected (positively) as well. After a busy day at work, exercise is one of the best ways to relax mentally and get rid of most of the stress that has been piling up inside of you. Physical exercise does so much for you, and this is how:
1. When you exercise, stress leaves your mind. As already mentioned, physical exercise helps you get rid of the stress that would otherwise bother you even when you go home and try to relax with your family. Exercise can also help you build resistance to stress and prevent anxiety, according to a study conducted at the University of Colorado at Boulder, which also found that it doesn’t matter if the workout is completed willingly done or is forced upon you, either way you will feel better afterwards. So, the next time when you feel nervous, anxious or simply stressed out, go for a run, or to a gym, and help yourself. The hardest part is deciding to go, when you start exercising you will be glad you did.
2. Exercising can help with depression. We know that the last thing that comes to your mind as something you would want to do when you are depressed is exercise. But once you start doing it, everything gets better. According to the Mayo Clinic, physical activity can alleviate the symptoms of depression and anxiety and prevent them from returning. This is possible due to the body’s tendency to, during and after a workout, release brain chemicals such as endorphins and neurotransmitters that make you feel good, while at the same time reducing the chemicals in the immune system that make your depression worse.
3. When you exercise regularly, your mind is more focused. According to the author of “Spark – The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain”, Dr. John Ratey says that our brain focus is raised up to three hours after a workout. This is good to know because if you have an important speech or meeting, working out before it could enhance your chances of better performance. Regular workouts can even help when it comes to long term focus and mental health, even when it comes to Alzheimer’s, because it improves the brain’s abilities by increasing blood flow and giving the brain a boost of energy.
Considering this, we can say that exercising can make us smarter.
4. Regular workouts improve your memory. Besides improving the overall brain function and helping you focus better, exercising can also improve your memory by improving the blood flow to the brain. The American College of Sports Medicine published a study in which respondents (students) were asked to memorize some letters before being given a task to do a physical exercise (running, weight lifting), or just sit. Those respondents who ran were better in memorizing than the weight lifting group, and that group was better than the group where the respondents just sat quietly.
This study showed that the brain memorizes better when you do physical activities.
5. Physical activity helps you control your impulses. Sometimes, you feel that you simply cannot determine priorities and you act based on your impulses. Regular workouts help the production of endorphins which, besides helping you improve your mood, also help your brain make priorities more effectively. After a workout, your brain is more able to concentrate on the task ahead of you, and simply stop paying attention to distractions standing in your way. This will also make it easier for you to follow through and make sure you reach your goals, according to the study conducted at the University of Iowa, in which the researchers concluded that consistent physical effort (mostly cardio exercise) maintained for an extended periods of time makes you more able to stay committed to the tasks you need to do in order to reach your goals.
As you can see, there are a lot of benefits of exercising regularly. The most important thing is to find motivation and stick to your workout habit. Let your workouts become something as normal and usual as eating, sleeping and socializing. Make it a part of your daily routine and you will see the difference – your physical and mental health will improve without a doubt. Since it can be hard to stay committed, make it easier – find some activity that you enjoy and don’t give up, or find a variety of workouts to keep it interesting. It might take you some time to get used to exercising every day, but after a while you will be thankful to yourself for making that effort.